james mcgonigal
Poet  •  Critic

Passage/An Pasaíste.

Edinburgh: Mariscat Press (2004).

This poem was winner of the Deric Bolton Long Poem Award, a national competition in memory of a poet and chemist who supported new Scottish writing. Publication was included as the prize, with typesetting by Gerry Cambridge and an evocative cover design by Joe Murray. The work has a to-and-fro movement in five-parts, as political, economic and cultural migrants shift between Scotland and Ireland across two centuries. Written mainly in English, it also includes elements of Irish Gaelic and Lowland Scots. Rody Gorman had earlier translated some poems of mine into Gaelic, and lines from these are re-embedded into the Irish context.

The poem’s landscapes reflect holiday travels in Ireland from the 1990s onwards, particularly in Antrim, Down and Donegal but also in Eire, intercut not only by the late 20th-century ‘troubles’ but by a much longer history of Scots-Irish cultural and religious tensions. My grandfather’s death in a coal-mining accident, and memories of living with my grandmother in a Lanarkshire mining village in the 1950s (a now-vanished way of life) shape the central movement.

The whole poem can be found here, under ‘Ireland to Scotland’, on my wife’s family history website, Patrick’s People.

Here are parts of Section 4 (‘Passage North To Armagh’) and Section 5 (‘Passage West To Glencolmcille’). The final poem in Section 5, ‘Regarding Water’ was also runner-up in the Davoren Hanna Poetry Competition, Dublin, 2002.


Click on the cover to return to the poetry page.

Contact  James McGonigal